Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

our own best friends

best friends2Here’s the thing, folks: who is your best friend? Who do you trust? Who has your back? And who — within broad limits — will you forgive almost anything?

If you yourself aren’t on that list, welcome to adulthood. And how sad is THAT?

Buddhism talks alot about knowing your own self. There’s a meme going around FB lately, that quotes Bodhidharma, the Buddhist monk, on self-knowledge:

If you wish to see the Buddha,
You must look into your own inner-nature;
This nature is the Buddha himself.
If you have not seen your own nature,
What is the use of thinking of Buddha,
Or reciting sutras, or fasting, or keeping precepts?
By thinking of Buddha, your meritorious deed will bear fruit;
By reciting sutras, you may attain a bright intellect;
By keeping the precepts, you may be born into heavens;
By practicing charity, you may be rewarded abundantly;
But as to seeking Buddha, you are far away.     ~ Bodhi-Dharma (d.533…?)

Bodhidharma, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1887.

Bodhidharma, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1887.

The reason is that if we know ourselves, and can find it in ourselves to accept with compassion our own natures, then we can love each other. We can act from and with love.

And as a friend of mine replied, when I posted this, Why does he have to hang out in such a scary place?

Because it’s soooo hard to love ourselves.  I have many many friends & colleagues who seem utterly incapable of recognising the talents, skills, gifts, beauty I see in them. They struggle with deep feelings of inadequacy, even though they are some of the most productive (and empathetic) men & women I know. Since many — if not most — of them are teachers, this time of year is particularly devastating. It’s virtually impossible to give support, attention, & affirmation to others when you’re at ground zero yourself.

Today, take a moment to remember: you know yourself better than you know anyone. And as I told a dear friend recently? Look for what your friends see in you, and honour their perceptions. In other words, treat yourself as gently and kindly as you would a friend. I guarantee that if you make a habit of it, it will change your life.

my mother’s heart and #Ferguson

imageThis is my wonderful family. These are my infinitely fallible and perfect sons, my perfect daughter-in-law (known in my writings as DIL), my beloved. And this is a story about empathy.

Both of my sons look — to anyone outside the immediate family — perfect. I will not share their private pasts, but suffice to know that each of them has brushed with laws, although neither has a record.

We are privileged (and I don’t use the term lightly) to have enough wherewithal to hire lawyers when necessary. We know the ins & outs of university systems. We have contacts, and we have resources. Neither of my sons bears scars from youthful misadventures, some more serious than others.

What tears me up about Ferguson, and the tragedy of Michael Brown, is the lack of empathy for this situation. Across the country, people act as if it’s okay to shoot a young man six times for …. What?

My boys have screwed up. As a young man, my husband certainly did. My DIL is brown, as is my perfect grandson, still a happy dream in this picture. If my DIL were a man — as her brother is — and screwed up? Her chances of ending up dead like Michael Brown would be significantly higher than my sons’ chances. In this photo, my sons are prime target age, bracketing Michael Brown on either side. And both of them could have — with different skin colour, with different resources available to them — ended up dead. Tragically, some of their friends did.

image

I am profoundly saddened by the hatred pouring out of America, as if a mask of civility and tolerance had been torn from us, to reveal seething vitriol beneath. People throughout the country are saying that Michael Brown ‘got what he deserved.’ NO ONE deserves to be shot six times, at least two shots to the head.

What parent/ aunt/ uncle/ godparent/ mentor/ teacher/ friend believes that our children DESERVE to be executed for (and even this is very sketchy ‘evidence’) a box of cigars?? Who can look at the faces of our less-than-perfect young and not remember heartbreak? Disappointment? Who among us believes that OUR OWN children deserve the fate of Michael Brown? And why in the name of all that hearts hold dear and holy can we not understand that this was someone else’s child??

America, once again: I do NOT understand. Nor does Ferguson. And ALL of us want answers. Our children deserve them.

turning hatred into love, or, the importance of Unabashed Smiles

via flickr

via flickr

Teeth. You need them for so many things, obviously. Eating, of course. But also speaking. And singing. And to present a certain … image, to the world around you.

Imagine all your teeth suddenly gone. Compound that w/ no insurance to replace them (expensive even with insurance. Now? Imagine that this is all the result of repeated beatings for who you are. Vicious beating that, more than 20 years later, come back with a vengeance. And take your teeth, as they once took your peace of mind, your safety. Your innocence. Perhaps your faith in humanity.

A friend wrote me this weekend, asking if I would consider donating to a project she’s involved in. It’s an Indiegogo project, Unabashed Smiles. The purpose of the fund is to replace the teeth of a man in her community, an independently employed singer and choral conductor.

His teeth, she told me — and the website story adds details — were badly damaged as the result of several beatings  gay bashing when he was in high school. Beatings severe and frequent enough that his teeth need to be pulled.

via google

via google

I am so grateful for what I have in my life: my beloved, my sons… And the list stops there, because this man was BEATEN for who he loves. In many states in this country, he can’t adopt children. So the two top items on my gratitude list? They are dreams for him, as evanescent as my dreams of far less visceral wants.

My wisdom tradition stresses lovingkindness, and giving back. So I was glad to donate. As I hope you may be. I can’t make up for the evil done to Christopher, but I can let him know that there is much love in this world. And that just as he was victimised by evil, he can be the recipient of love.

I’m hoping you feel the same way. Just in case, here’s the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unabashed-smiles/x/8455396. And thanks for listening.

 

heartsick reprised

via google

via google

I use this image alot in my blog. I wish I knew who first created it — they deserve my undying admiration & gratitude. Because to me, this is beginner’s heart.

It’s what I think of these days, especially, as I try to make sense of my own anger, frustration, and even despair. Anger at the blindness of a white, heterosexist, ersatz Christian culture. Frustration w/ a system of police ‘protection’ migrated from a war on terror, as if wethepeople were the enemy. And despair that nothing has changed since the riots of the 60s…

Today, however, a dear friend and colleague — someone I have nothing but respect and affection for — reminded me that there is more to Ferguson than my raging against the night. There are people who live there, w/ children who can’t go to school.

Children who will need counseling to get this past week out of their nightmares. A QuikTrip that may not be rebuilt, in a neighbourhood with — almost certainly — too few sources for shopping.

And still, I don’t know what to think, or how to process. So I SWORE I wasn’t going to do FB today, or tomorrow. The tragic, racist, thoughtless and downright HATEFUL posts about Ferguson and the other murders of black men & women this past month have me too upset & angry.But to be honest, it’s not strictly Ferguson. It’s a society that believes the death of a black man is ‘collateral damage.’

via google

via google

I understand that the officer in Ferguson may have been afraid. But face it: he did NOT know (at that time) of the robbery, if indeed there was one. So basically, he hassled a guy for living while black, and then freaked out because he bit off more than he could chew. In the BEST of scenarios, the officer is still grievously at fault: he hassled a guy for being black and jay-walking.

I’m just sick of it all. When I go out to eat w/ my (black) friends Ben or Dewayne, it’s SOOOO different than when I go out w/ my husband, or my brother-in-law. Race is such a painful, horrible legacy in this country, and I don’t know what to do except remind people, as often as it seems necessary, that we need to talk.

The response in Ferguson was waaaay out of proportion. And sure: parties on both sides are making political hay out of it. Witness the St. Louis PD, the KKK, the SLPC, etc. I tend to agree that it’s no different, essentially, from the 4-5 other murders of black men & a woman this past month. That doesn’t comfort me.

Somehow, we all have to find a way to heal these grievous wounds. And frankly? I can’t begin to heal myself, and no one has shot at me, profiled me, beat me up, or shot my son. So how on earth can Ferguson ever come to peace…?

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